This is a presentation and an analysis of the International Adult Literacy Survey, IALS, the first international comparative study of reading ability and reading habits among adults. The study was carried out in seven countries in Europe and North America during 1994 och 1995. It was conducted by Statistics Canada, in cooperation with Educational Testing Service in USA, and OECD in Paris, France. The aim was to bring to a focus the relations between individuals' reading ability, educational level and occupation, and economic growth and development in society. A second aim was to identify groups of individuals who may suffer, socially as well as economically, because of a low level of reading ability.
The National Agency for Education was responsible for the Swedish participation in the study. A representative sample of the population, 16 years of age and older, have taken part in the study, which was conducted by means of interviews and objective tests of reading ability.
The results demonstrate that there are substantial differences in reading ability among the population both within the country and in comparison with other countries. Education lays the ground for the development of reading ability, but work-related reading and leisure reading both have an impact on further development of the ability.
In analysing the Swedish data focus has been on three variables, education, reading ability and reading habits. Individuals with a high educational level demonstrated better reading ability and more frequent reading activities. both at work and in leisure, than did individuals with a lower educational level. Individuals with higher education read more books, visited a library more often and read much more in relation to work than did individuals with lower education.
According to the IALS survey, however, approximately one third of the Swedish 16+ population did not reach the level of reading ability that is set in the national curriculum (Lpo 94) as a goal for the end of grade 9 in the Swedish compulsory school.
This thesis also contains a pilot study, the aim of which is to test a method of researching adults' reading habits in depth. In the pilot study data were collected by means of reading-diaries. From the diaries it appeared that the time individuals reserved for reading during week days increased substantially from the lowest to the highest level of education. It was the time spent with reading in relation to work that made all the difference. It was also evident that the variation of reading materials was much larger for individuals with a high educational level than for those with a low educational level.
The opportunities and possibilities for adults to improve their reading ability vary a great deal. There is every reason to emphasize the need for increased opportunities of recurrent education, in order to avoid a wider and deeper gap between individuals with high and low levels of reading ability. Further research about the context and requirements of adult reading in the future society is also needed.
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 1997. , 111 p.
IALS, international comparative study, adults reading ability, adults reading habits, education, reading diaries